Before this week, only three players had ever eclipsed the 30-under mark in 72 holes on the PGA Tour.
That number doubled on Sunday.
Cameron Smith won the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua by shooting 34 under in four trips around a very-gettable Plantation Course. But that wasn’t all. Runner-up Jon Rahm posted 33 under, and third-place Matt Jones was another shot back at 32 under.
All three joined Ernie Els (31 under, 2003 TOC), Jordan Spieth (30 under, 2016 TOC) and Dustin Johnson (30 under, 2020 Northern Trust) in the Tour’s 30-under club, though Els, Spieth and Johnson each won in convincing fashion, by eight, eight and 11 shots, respectively. Hence why Rahm was quick to downplay this week’s eye-popping numbers, or at least his own performance. They were, Rahm contended, more a byproduct of the conditions than anything special he or his fellow competitors did.
“This golf course only has one defense and that's the wind,” Rahm began explaining. “If people are shooting between 20 and 26 under with 20-mph winds, what do you expect us to do when there's absolutely no wind? … I think that's the difference. I'm not surprised. When it comes to records, I think, what was it, Jordan shot 30, D.J. shot , and Ernie shot 31, right? And all three of them won by a margin. It's kind of weird when you look forward in the records that there's two of us that beat that score and lost by one and two.
“So, you know, I know we did a really good job and we shot low, but I think those 30 and 31 unders deserve a lot more credit than my 33 under.”
In addition to passing Els’ longstanding mark, Rahm also tied the PGA Tour record for birdies made in a 72-hole event with 32. That came a day after he shot 12-under 61 on Saturday to tie the course record, which Justin Thomas had set just two hours earlier. Jones later joined Kapalua’s 61 club on Sunday.
For the week, the scoring average was 68.22, almost a shot lower than the TOC record of 69.16, which was set the year Els shot 31 under, 2003.
“You have what's probably a lot of purists of the game who are probably going, ‘Oh, you got to roll the ball back, shorter drivers, do this, do that,’” Rahm continued. “The simple fact is since Tiger started playing golf you getting people that take this game a lot more seriously. Everybody thinks about it more like athletes, so the level of the game of all of us it's a lot higher than it used to be. Not to take away anything from anybody, Tiger's an amazing player, and he was better than all of us have ever been, but overall, I think the average player, it's a better golf player.
“And when you come to a golf course where the only defense is wind, just, at least you expect 20 mph here, and we usually shoot 20 to 26 under and win the tournament. And you get the same golf course with no wind, what do you expect? You have 50-yard fairways, soft greens, we're going to shoot low. It's just kind of how it goes.”